Monday, March 29, 2010

One fun weekend

We had a fabulous weekend in Tucson with my parents. I took a half day Friday and headed down (after a nap, of course) so that I could go to the dedication at my mom's school. it's really quite an amazing transformation. The school used to be a Cluck U Chicken fast food restaurant. When the Scottish Rite bought it for the school, the elderly masons gutted the place to make classrooms, a kitchen, and staff work spaces. It wasn't long before the school was at capacity. With the grant from Angel Charities, they again transformed the building into staff offices, speech therapy rooms, and work spaces. One classroom was also turned into a child-parent resource center, with snuggly places to read and play. The new building across the courtyard now houses 4 classrooms, giving the school room to grow and allowing them to cut down the waiting list by adding more new students than ever before. Pretty awesome. And the best part? The school was dedicated to my mom and the director of the Speech and Language Center. It was a very proud moment for all of us.

After the dedication, we went out to celebrate my mom's birthday in downtown. We got bottles of champagne and fresh squeezed margaritas, then had a late dinner. My mom has a really fun group of coworkers and friends through work, some that I've known since back when she worked in Marana. So it was fun to go out for a girls' night.

Saturday, I hung out with my mom and did some shopping. Dan came down around 2 and my grandparents and aunt and uncle came for dinner later. I hadn't seen them all in a while, so it was good to see them. My uncle had been to ill to come to our wedding, and it was great to see him feeling so much better. After dinner, Dan and I watched The Hangover with my parents. Awesome movie. Seriously.

Yesterday was our big outing to a spring training game. i have to say, I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn't felt like my personal space was being intruded upon by the people around us. While I love lawn seating because you can stretch out, having people almost on top of you is not fun. But we had a good time hanging out and chatting and watching the game.

We only have less than 2 weeks until my sister's visit/parents' anniversary/Mom's birthday party. We've got a lot to prepare, and I've got some crafting to do. And I only have 5 weeks (from today) until my final assignment (ever!) is due for school. I've booked a weekend staycation for me and Dan to relax poolside while my parents take the pups to Tucson. I've got a lot to look forward to in the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Someone very special is celebrating her 60th birthday today: my mama!! My mom is awesome sauce, folks. She's done a lot in her 60 years on this Earth, and as she told me this morning, she's got a lot she still wants to do. Let me tell you about my amazing mom.

Her parents were high school sweethearts and they loved their community in Western New York, volunteering for various causes whenever possible. Her father was principal at her high school and my grandparents were very well respected in their community. She was the youngest of three girls, and she was a bit of a rebel. When she was in her early 20's she hitchhiked to California and got a tattoo from Lyle Tuttle. She's a self-proclaimed hippie and has always had a bit of a wild side.

Education has always been important to my mom and her family. She and her two sisters are all educators, and my mom has always been an advocate for education for kids with disadvantages or special needs. She got her Masters in Preschool Special Education from the University of Arizona and worked for Head Start for eleven years. When I seven, she left Head Start to found a preschool program for kids with disabilities in Marana. I remember getting to go visit her school one day a year and meeting all the kids we heard so much about.

In 1998, Mom left the school in Marana and went to start another school called Wings on Words Child Language Center, a school funded by the Scottish Rite working in conjunction with the U of A's Speech and Hearing Department. The school specializes in not only early childhood education, but speech pathology and language development. Some of the kids are developing normally, other kids need a lot of help with their words, and others have needs beyond their speech and language delays. In the early years, my mom taught at the school, and now serves as as the Program Director. Recently, the school won a grant from the Angel Foundation and used the proceeds to build a new building and remodel the old one and expand the playground. The school will be dedicated on Friday and my mom is literally bursting with pride, as she should be.

She's always been a champion for education, in her own family as well as in the Tucson community, where she is very much respected. My sister and I went to a bilingual magnet elementary school - it was very important to her that we get the right start in our education. My mom was inspired by Ina Gittings, and believes that all children need to learn and thrive are books, blocks, and an imagination. She was honored with an award in Ina's name not long ago. On May 7th, the day I graduate with my own graduate degree, Mom will be recognized for her completion of a program in leadership in education.

She met my dad and married just after her 30th birthday and they'll celebrate their 30th anniversary in 3 weeks. They became parents 15 months later when I was born and had my sister 3 and a half years after that. Things weren't always easy for them, as marriage is a journey, but I look at my parents today and see two people very much in love.

She's been an amazing mom. She's always there for us, as a friend and guide. We butted heads some when I was young, but I think a lot of moms an daughters go through that. She's been supportive as I'm made both good and bad choices, and trusted me to choose the right path in the end. Though I may not have always talked, she's always listened. I don't think Megan or I could have asked for a better mother, and I have an excellent role model for the day I become a mom myself.

I can't begin to really explain the person my mom is. She's kind, funny, caring, compassionate, and silly. She bebops a lot to music, and enjoys being outdoors. She enjoys exploring and new experiences, cultures, and foods. I have amazing and funny memories of my mom, little pieces that stick with me: her Jack Daniels tank top, her perms, her playing with us and our imaginations in the summers and our trips to New York where she'd talk to her sisters for hours about the people from her home town. When we all went to Mexico for my college graduation, she was happier (and drunker) than I was. I remember seeing her behind the wheel of a ski boat and thinking she looked so natural. It's easy to forget living in Arizona that she spent her summers growing up on boats since her parents owned a marina.

My mom is an incredible woman, both to us and to the children whose lives she touches every day. I sincerely hope she has a wonderful birthday and knows how much we all love and admire her. We are all so lucky to be have her in our life.

Happy birthday, Mama!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monkey Cake

Today is my coworker's shower, and I'm super excited about her monkey cake. It took me a little longer than expected and I had a couple glitches, but I'm very happy with how it turned out and I have to remember that no one will be scrutinizing it the way I am.

I don't want to be a Braggy McBraggerson, but I can't believe I turned these...

into this...

My poor kitchen looked like it'd been hit by an automic bomb. If I were on Food Network Challenge and Carrie Vincent were judging, she would not be pleased with my work space. She'd scowl at me with her little headband and make squinty eyes in her talking head. Bad news bears.
I just had a couple minutes to post the before and after. I'll come back later and fill in the holes. Have a sweet day!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meal Plan Monday: The One Where I Discover Fresh and Easy

I haven't done Meal Plan Monday in a couple of weeks because we've been busy, and frankly I got out of the habit of planning briefly. But we're back at it this week, with a new place to shop (more on that in a minute). Here's our plan this week:

Monday: Leftover wheat pasta with veggies

Tuesday: Beef fajitas

Wednesday: Chicken of some sort, probably lemon pepper with veggies

Thursday: Chicken of another sort, maybe crock pot BBQ chicken or a white chili recipe

Friday: Who are we kidding, we usually eat out on Friday

So I'm only halfway back into it. That's because I only did half my shopping. I had to go to Michael's to get dowels to do my coworker's baby shower cake last night, and Dan suggested I stop and check out Fresh and Easy. It just opened a month ago and we haven't been to it yet. Holy cow, have I been missing out!! This is my new go-to place for meat, that's for sure. We use a lot of ground turkey and a lot of chicken. When it comes to turkey, their regular price almost matches the lowest sale price at nearby competitors. Since it doesn't hit that price too often, Fresh and Easy beats the average I spend on turkey. And chicken? Not even a fair fight. I spent $7 last week on some pretty pathetic chicken breasts. The same $7 at Fresh and Easy got me huge breasts that will easily get us 4 meals because we'll cut them all in half. And tomorrow's fajitas came from their selection of pre-packaged, ready-to-prepare meals. All we have to do is toss them in a pan. Voila! I'm not sure I came on the best day for produce because there wasn't much to choose from, and they don't have a big selection of brands to choose from, but I will definitely be splitting my shopping and spending time at Fresh and Easy each week.

Moving on, we had a great weekend. We slept in Saturday and went to see She's Out of My League. We came home, walked the pups and settled in and watched two other movies. We were pretty lazy, but it was a perfect Saturday. Yesterday, we finally got the spare room in order and did some massive cleaning before I destroyed the kitchen again. I baked my coworker's cakes and iced the bottom cake and inserted dowels. I'll finish the decorating tonight and stack and box it for tomorrow. As I was mixing buttercream icing, I said to Dan, "isn't it funny that I found what I love to do 5 weeks before I get my master's degree in a completely different field?" Such is life. For now, it's a very satisfying hobby, but maybe one day I'll make some money with it. Until then, I'm perfectly happy to practice, practice, practice. And Dan doesn't mind much either. He's a great lovely assistant: cutting dowels, trimming cake boards. We're quite the little baking team.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cribs: Cubicle Edition

Amanda at It's Blogworthy had a cute post about her cubicle this morning (and her awesome Muppets paperclips!) and I decided to steal her fabulous idea and show you where I spend 8+ hours of my day. For people who don't work in cubicles, it's kind of a foreign concept. My mom is a teacher, and I'm not sure she's ever seen a true cube farm. It can be quite dizzying. When I worked with Mrs. ESPN , we visited a lot of different companies, and one in particular had a huuuuuuge call center. I'm fortunate that my office, even with it's rows of cubes, doesn't feel sterile. People here tend to personalize their cubes, some quite a bit. I personally would go nuts if I didn't have some personal possessions that make me happy. Thus, I present to you, my home away from home.

First off, I have to say, I'm very lucky. I have a huge cubicle. Most everyone on our floor shares, but my coworker and I each have a cube to ourself. The downside is that we share cube walls with the engine service plan people, so we hear loud shmoozing all day. I spend a lot of time listening to my iPod, which is located to this little guy, Domo.
You may recognize Domo from Target's 2008 Halloween marketing. He's got more of a history though, one that made me burst into wet-your-pants laughter when I walked into Target in mid-July (approximately) and saw their Halloween signage for the first time. You see, like many viral photo fans in my generation, I associate Domo with this:

Domo the Kitten Killer. Whoever on Target's marketing team kept their mouth shut while they snickered when Domo was suggested as the Halloween mascot is my personal hero, because it was downright hilarious to me. Anyway, moving along.

These little guys live on my monitor. Dan bought them for me not long after we started dating. We were leaving a grocery store and walked by the little kiddie sticker and and trinket machines when he got all excited. He quickly stuffed about 5 quarters into the darn thing - that's how many it took to get me three different monkies (the others were discarded, poor monkies) - and then proudly presented me with them. The whole moment had me laughing, so they're a cute reminder of the hubs at work.

Speaking of the hubs, this is the only picture I keep at work, and it's off to the side where I can oogle him discretely. I just love this photo. I also love the froggy guy next to it. I got it in a white elephant exchange this past Christmas. He's actually a soap holder, and the giver included paperclips as a joke because we can't seem to get office supplies here at work. Turns out, he makes a pretty convenient paperclip holder. So a "hey, our company's cheap" joke actually turned into a cute and functional desk accessory.

And of course, no desk of mine would be complete with pictures of my pups. I've got Paisley's photo from her luau at Doggie Day Camp and my Snapfish calendar with pics of both girls.

Those are the things about my cube that make me the most happy. I've got other little things here and there, like the giant University of Arizona mug in which I keep stress balls and my arsenal of meds, lotion, and anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. Recently my cube has been dubbed the "therapy room," so a coworker made a sign that says "Therapy in Session." I also couldn't bear to part with my Brooke's Cocoa Bar sign, so that hangs on an inside wall.

Anyone else care to share their "crib?"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Top o' the mornin! I'm embracing my new Irish heritage (by marriage). Finally, I've earned the right to wear the claddagh I've had since I was 15. I'm fully in the spirit, except for wearing green. I just wasn't feeling it. I figure buying a green car, having a green couch, and a green living room wall should have me covered for about another 10 years. Plus, I did make these lovely and yummy shamrock cookies and green cuppycakes for the office today:

Last night, I took my Bed Bath & Beyond coupon and our last BB&B coupon and did some shopping. I picked up some new mixing bowls that I've been desperately wanting, huge cookie sheets, new spatulas, and cute sconces that Dan promptly hung for me. I dressed up the master bath, bedroom hall, and an accent wall with them. They were a screaming deal and add a little touch of that homey feel I've been craving.
I don't think we have any plans for St. Patty's Day. We'll probably just drop a couple drops of green food coloring in some Guinness and call it a day. Neither of us are huge fans of going to crowded pubs and then driving home knowing that a lot of people have been drinking heavily. Not fun at all.

What are your St. Patty's Day plans?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Official NCAA Champion Prediction: Demon Deacons

It's that time of year - when Mr. and Mrs. ESPN and all their fellow sports nuts are glued to their TV's and get all serious about their brackets. The U of A ruins a tad of the excitment this year by not making the tournament, but that's alright. We shall all push on. It wouldn't matter though because the Demon Deacons are going to win. How do I know this, you ask? Because of my highly scientific bracket hieracrchy, that's how. I shall show you.

Here's said highly scientific hierachy ranking mascots from low-probability of winning to undefeatable. It's based mainly on how I visualize a fight between the two competitors going down in real life.

Colors (lame!)
Plants and Tree (Stupid.)
Insects (Stinging beats non-stinging)
Birds with no talons
Small animals, no fangs (regardless of color. A golden gopher doesn’t change the fact that it’s a gopher)
Reptiles (venomous beats non venomous. Salmonella carrying turtles don't beat actual venom)
Birds with talons
Humans with no weapons
Animals with fangs (largest animal wins it, colors are the tie-breaker)
Humans with weapons
Forces of nature
Godly and/or satanic creatures

It's far too hard to post my bracket visibly, but feel free to hit up Google for a bracket and follow along. I'll walk you through some of the highlights of my bracket:

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Lehigh Mountainhawks. This is tough. They're both in the same "class." I had to google the mascots themselves, and the Jayhawks were simply more menacing. Mizzou's Tiger Beat Clemson's for the simple fact that Mizzou knows what color tigers are supposed to be.

Ohio Buckeyes vs. UCSB Gauchos. The Gauchos got lucky. A Buckeye tree is about the only thing in the tournament a pair of women's pants had any chance of beating. The match-up between the Owls and the Big Red is going to be exhausting - I imagine it'll be about 8 hours of a barn owl pecking the every-loving crap out of a size XXL red t-shirt.

Murray St. Racers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores. I'm assuming they meant of herd of 80's computers. They beat the Racers since even old-school dial-up can beat a man on foot. They don't stand up to a Miner's pick axe too well, though. Busted screen and microchips everywhere.

The Marquette Golden Eagles vs. the Washington Huskies was a tough call. Dog don't really have huge fangs (like a panther or bear) and would have a hard time pulling an eagle out of the air. I decided that at some point, Huskies are puppies which can be easily carried away by an eagle. Sorry puppies.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Old Dominion Monarchs. A pack of drunken leprechauns can easily defeat a bunch of prissy queens. If all else fails, they can woo them with their lucky charms. We may also be talking about monarch butterflies here, in which case it's an easy victory for the Irish.

Things get tricky when the Duke Blue Devils come up against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Both are Godly and/or Satanic creatures. However, Demon Deacons are Godly AND Satanic. This raises a whole lot of questions about the battle between good and evil and religious views and such. Anywho, one could argue that they would cancel each other out, or that Godly creatures will always triumph over evil. I, however, prefer to think that the two could shake hands, call a truce, and unite their powers to defeat Duke's Blue Devils. And it's my bracket, so I call the delusional shots.

So there you have it, Wake Forest will win the 2010 NCAA Men's Basektball tournament.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The 5K and Home Improvements

Yesterday, we ran the 5K for the Make a Wish Foundation. Actually, since we parked so far away, we ran the 5K and walked an additional 2 miles. We finished together in 42 minutes and 12 seconds. I'd have liked to have done it faster and know I could have run more than I did, but I was honestly so happy to have Dan doing it with me, that I waited up for him and walked more than I probably would have otherwise. I see it as an opportunity for improvement and what's important is that we raised money for a great cause.

I also went to my friend's baby shower yesterday, and that was really fun. She got so much great stuff, including a box of 668 diapers. I'm sure her son will go through them very quickly, but she won't have to buy diapers for quite a while. We played games and drank wine. We played the "don't say 'baby' game" with clothes pins and I was winning for a long time and then I just couldn't seem to stop saying 'baby.' I'm so glad she invited me to her shower, and I can't wait to throw her work shower in 9 days!
We were supposed to go play mini golf and eat sushi with friends, but they bailed, so we decided to paint the accent walls in the apartment instead. I think they turned out great! I helped Dan with the living room wall, and then I was tired and tired of having a headache (it's been 2.5 days, not uncommon for me), so I went to bed and took the pups with me so he could do the dining room wall. I didn't take before photos, but I'm sure you can imagine a boring white apartment.
The living room. That framed Ikea may or may not stay there, depending on how tall our new entertainment center is.

The dining room. We think we want to do red on two other walls that have window cutouts, but we haven't completely decided.

We made another improvement this weekend. A big important one. We bought a giant crate for both dogs to sleep in. Dan was skeptical that it would work, since Clover hates her crate about as much as house-breaking. We were surprised that Paisley actually was the whiner. I think maybe she thought we were kidding about making her sleep in it. I don't blame her though - she's been sleeping with me and then us for almost 2 years, and now is banished to a crate. But we've slept great the last two nights (until 6:30am!!), so I'm very happy with the decision. Here are the little demons in Mega Crate

Today, we're off to the in-laws for corned beef and cabbage, and then I've got to decorate the 6 dozen shamrock cookies I baked this morning. I may or may not do that until tomorrow, depending on how long we're at Dan's parents' house. I'm just glad The Girls will have a chance to play and run in their yard and hopefully come home tired.

How's your weekend going?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cake Class 4: The Monkey Cake

Isn't he cute? I'm mostly happy with it as a first try. My cake didn't come out of the pan nicely so it was hard to see the definition of the hands and feet. In contrast, one of my classmates also did the monkey and she could tell exactly where each finger and toe was. So I need to work on making sure my pan works for me. I have enough icing left over to have another go at it this weekend. I'm going to use a smaller tip for the outline and tweak the color and consistency. I'm sure Dan won't mind me making another cake :)

It has been another long week, and I'm so happy to see Friday. It's an exciting day - I have a haircut appointment, my parents' party invites are here, and I should be getting the shirt Dan ordered me as a gift. I love the Johnny Cupcakes shop and the story behind the business. Basically, the designer started making and wearing shirts with cupcakes as kind of a joke and they caught on. 9 years later, he's developed somewhat of a cult following and has spoofed various logos and designs by adding or substituting a cupcake. There are a ton of designs, all of them exclusive to the website and Johnny Cupcakes stores, and there also limited edition, hand numbered designs. Dan got me the classic Johnny Cupcakes insignia tee:

We've also got a fun weekend ahead. Tomorrow is the Walk for Wishes 5K, I still need to check and see what time we have to be there. I also have my coworker's family baby shower in the afternoon, and then we're meeting up with Scott & Melissa and their kids to play putt-putt golf and get sushi. On Sunday, I hope to get some St. Patrick's Day cookies done and give the monkey another try. If I have time (it doesn't seem like it though), I also want to work on my daisy painting. There will be no lack of activity in our home this weekend, that's for sure.

Do you have fun weekend plans?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Clover's Day Out

It's been a very long Wednesday. Clover was awake at 2:30 this morning, and was restless until 4:40, barely allowing me to doze off every now and then. When she chose 4:45 to jump down onto the floor and I burst into tears, my sweet husband got up, took The Girls, and went to the living room so I could get an hour of rest. When I got up, he told me he was going to Starbucks and had me write down my favorite drink. I felt like a zombie and it was a much needed pick-me-up. Salt mentioned on her blog that married life for her and her new husband isn't much different than engaged-cohabitating life except that they're ultra-nice to each other. I have to agree. Getting up early and getting me an iced venti Chai Tea latte at 6:15am was very ultra-nice of my husband. Though I must brag, I think he'd have done that anyway :)

Anyway, it was a long day. I was tired, despite my latte and 2 Coke Zeros. I had a LOT to do at work, a huge deadline worth about $1.5M. I seriously owe cupcakes to about 5 people who really went out of their way to help me on very short notice. I also forgot my phone and felt bare all day, though luckily Dan has a Blackberry, so I was able to to check in with him now and then via email. I left at almost 5:30, after nearly 10 hours in the office and too late to stop at the grocery store on my way home without knowing if Dan was home to let the dogs out. As it turns out, Dan was home.

And what did he find? Scratching on the bedroom door. From Paisley on the outside, and Clover on the inside. But wait... isn't Clover supposed to be in a crate during the day? Why yes, she is! Turns out, Tired Me forgot to check to make sure both crate doors were closed. We have no idea how long she was free in the bedroom, but were relieved to find that there wasn't much damage. She'd gotten a shoe and ripped up a paper bag. And that was it. Dan met me downstairs to warn me, but there was no reason to.

And here's where it gets gross, so stop reading if you want. We realized that she should have gone #2 by that time of day. She's crate trained, so she doesn't go in her crate, but the rest of the apartment is her personal toilety free-for-all since she refuses with the passionate fire of 1,000 suns to not be house-broken. Andplusalso, she's a poo eater. We thought maybe we'd gotten lucky, and she hadn't gone, that she hadn't discovered the open crate door and been out long enough. Then again, maybe she'd gotten out and recycled her breakfast as a snack. Dan told me to smell her breath, and I did, mostly as a joke.

And then... she shitburped in my face. I told you to stop reading.

Our Gross Little Thing is currently sleeping happily on the couch, snuggled up with Paisley and completely unaware that she's spending tonight in her crate. I have to get sleep, or I'll go nuts.

In other news, my apron came today! I got the black and white damask, and I love it. I wore it to mix my cake batter for my final cake class tomorrow.

And in other exciting news, my sister and I are planning and throwing our parents a 30th anniversary party. We've spent the last couple evenings planning and conspiring and I'm so excited. 30 years is quite the accomplishment, and I truly admire my parents' relationship. I think we're planning a fun party - with a surprise theme until the invites arrive - that they'll really love.

I'm also contemplating a vacation or a staycation. We're not doing a big honeymoon trip and I need to burn a week so I'm contemplating ideas. I might take a week to be at home and just unwind and then Dan and I might both fly to Seattle at the end to visit my sister. I also considered visiting family in New York and ending my visit with a trip to the Post Secret event taking place at a college nearby. We shall see. If anyone has ideas, I'm open to something economical.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cake Class 3: Feliz Cumpleanos, Abuelita!

Last night we had to make a birthday cake with our new found talent for Wilton roses. Ha, talent! My poor roses. Actually, my poor cake. It was slowly falling apart, making cracks along the top and making the sides look saggy. It's actually kinda wonky and reminds me of the Mad Hatter's hat from Alice in Wonderland. Pretty entertaining. After struggling with roses for a while, I finally got 6 that were fit for the top of a cake. Then came the shells... again. And more garlands on the sides, like on the Happy Friday cake. I'm not sure what Gloria's obsession with these garlands is all about, but I'm not liking them. They make my cake look like it came from Safeway.

After the shells and garlands came the mini rose buds and sweet peas. I could have done without these too. Less is more, sometimes, Gloria. She did actually have an interesting technique for the rose buds. We cut Jelly Bellys (gluten free!) in half and stuck a toothpick in the cut end. Then we made a tiny rose using the jelly belly as the base. Then we stuck the toothpick into the cake at the intersection of each garland. Sweet peas and swirl flowers went on top of the shells at the base of the cake, alternating at the center under each garland.

If this all sounds like a lot for one cake, that's because it is. The thing is a monstrosity, er a piece of art I like to call "Feliz Cumpleanos, Abuelita" because it looks like a grandma's birthday cake and we were all speaking our compliments in Spanish last night: "oooh, que bonita!!"

Without further ado, I give you... the cake:

I'll replace these pics with better ones at home, but I couldn't post without pics and you get the idea. Poor cake.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Baby-sitting, sushi and painting

We had a very nice weekend. On Friday night, we laid low and hung out together after a long week. On Saturday, I met a friend for lunch and then took her baby for a few hours so she could get a break. She and her husband have no family here, so she's only had about 2 days in the 6 months of Connor's life to re-energize. So I took Connor and ran some errands, including shopping for a gift for my coworker's baby shower next weekend.

The thing that surprised me about watching Connor was the sheer logistics. Everywhere we went, I had to think about how we were going to get around the store. He's able to sit up, so Kristi gave me a grocery cart cover/seat for him, along with a super light-weight Combi stroller (when I'm a mom, I have to have one of these things!). At some stores, a stroller made more sense, but Target required a grocery cart. I began to realize how simply attempting to get things done with a little one adds time and effort.

After running errands, I took Connor back to the apartment for a bottle. Holy crap, a 19 pound baby and a 2nd floor apartment don't mix. On days when I want a baby so badly my uterus aches and I think "a baby in an apartment wouldn't be so bad," I will now think back to Saturday and what a nightmare it would really be. Taking him for a walk along with Clover was interesting. I carried him downstairs, took Clover on a leash and went to the car. Then I realized I couldn't put either of them down since I'd left the car seat upstairs (and he can roll, so putting him on the seat wouldn't work). So I put Clover in the back seat and managed to open the super light Combi one-handed and get Connor in before Clover figured out how to climb over the back seat and get into the cargo space. We had a nice long walk with Connor singing and babbling most of the way, but putting the stroller back in the car was worse, since it required two hands. By the time I got us all back upstairs, I was exhausted. It was time to get Connor home for his dinner/bath/bed routine, so I loaded him all up and drove him home.

When I got home, Dan and I freshened up and headed out to look at paint samples. We originally planned to only be in our apartment for a few months, but when we realized how much we'd save over renting a house, we decided to stay another year. Since it's stark white and blah here, we agreed to paint some accent walls. After checking out color options, we went for dinner at RA Sushi. Delicious food, but that night we had awful service. I won't even get into it all, but it was very disappointing. I never ever complain, as I worked in restaurants in college and realize that things just happen, but I actually called the manager after we left. The manager apologized profusely and offered up complimentary appetizers and sushi rolls.

Today, we slept in - all four of us - and it was glorious. We went to Scott and Melissa's for Family Art Funday. I'd sketched out a gerber daisy on a canvas and got to start it. It was so great to have Melissa's help. Part of me was scared to paint something that looks like something in front of people - I prefer abstract painting and just playing with my hobby - but she was really awesome and gave me pointers and even showed me techniques so I could try them myself. Dan finished his cherry blossom branch and it looks awesome. He's got a little touching up to do and then I'll post a picture of it. It's truly an amazing work of art.

This evening I had to stack my cakes for class tomorrow - it may or may not have gone so well. One of my cakes started to break on me, and I'm crossing my fingers it will hold up. It's very frustrating to try to get the icing perfectly smooth with no crumbs. I know practice will make me better, but I want to be good at it now!

Hope everyone had a great weekend!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cake Class 2: Clowning Around

Did you know Jelly Bellys are gluten free? Now you do.

Cake decorating class today was fun, as expected. I baked and stacked my cakes last night, and got the frosting pretty smooth for my first shot. We started by painting three different colored stripes in a pastry bag. Once it was filled with icing and squeezed, the frosting came out with ribbons of color. Pretty cool. So what do we do with ribbony icing? Make creepy clowns of course. We were supposed to put them on our cakes and make a birthday cake, but I opted not to. I used my ribbony icing to work on my shells and write "Happy Friday" on my cake (you're welcome coworkers).

Gluten Free is socially oblivious, I've decided. She kept interrupting when people were talking and piping in (ha, puns are fun!) with various foods that are gluten free. Like gluten-free boxed cakes and Jelly Bellys. And that's... that's about it. She's like the Bubba of gluten-free foods. Sprinkles, on the contrary, have gluten, FYI.

I came home to Stuffed Peppers a la Dan, a bottle of pinot noir, and The Office. Oh em gee, it's the baby episode!! What more can a girl ask for?


Today is my friend’s birthday. Was. It was his birthday. Or is it “is”? I just don’t know.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I befriended a freshman named John. He was on the swim team with me and we clicked instantly. We had little crushes, but after 4 days of the innocent hand-holding thing, we decided we were better as friends. We spent hours together. We’d share a lane at swim practice and walk for a bite to eat after school. When I started dating a football player my junior year, I’d go to every game and sit right next to the band so I could hang out with John while he played clarinet. He’d make me laugh with his Elmo voice and hear me out on my issues with other girls. He was my best friend. At the end of my junior year, John tried out for and won the drum major role for the next year. He was so ecstatic. He had such a love for music and had so many ideas for field formations and songs the band could learn.

On Labor Day my senior year, I was at home. We had friends over to swim. The phone rang, my friend Jamie told me to sit down. She told me John was gone. My heart broke then and there. He’d taken his own life, his mom had found him. The next days were a blur – the candlelight vigil, the wake, the funeral. On Thursday that week, our flex schedule should have crossed our paths between 2nd and 4th period on my way to pre-calculus. He didn’t greet me at the stairs. I burst into tears, and my friend Lisa led me to the grief counselor that had been brought in just for us.

To this day, I don’t know why he’s gone, but I still miss him when I think of him. I think his passing has impacted me so deeply because he was so young. We were so young. We were supposed to be happy and carefree. On the surface, he was. But deep down, there was a sadness I can’t begin to comprehend. I suspect what contributed to it. At his funeral, John’s mom said he’d made a mistake. I believe that – that he’d gotten caught up in some dark place and didn’t see another way out. I don’t think he truly wanted to leave.

His birthdays always touch my heart. He loved to celebrate birthdays, just as I do. He’d bring his friends balloon bouquets at school. As I’ve grown up, I’m often reminded of the things that John won't experience. He never got to drive the VW Bug he saved for for three years. He didn’t walk across the stage on our high school football field and graduate. He never had a college roommate or had to endure finals. He never fell in love. But with all he’ll miss, there is one thing he did do that brings a smile to my face. I’m thankful that he got to lead his beloved band as drum major for the first game of the season, 2 days before he left us.

I don’t like to think about his death, though that date is forever etched in my mind. I prefer to think of him on his birthday, and remember him as he was when he was happiest: blonde hair, blue eyes, a mouth full of braces, proudly wearing his fire red and white band uniform. It’s what he wore when he gave me the last hug, the last time I saw him. When he was laid to rest, his mom told us that when we saw a rainbow, it was a smile from above, a gift from John. I don’t believe it myself, but every year on March 4th, I’ve seen a rainbow. He’s the one giving gifts on his birthday. He was always so sweet like that.

So, my dear friend, Happy Birthday. You’ll always be in my heart and memories. And thank you for the rainbows.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Please help me decide!

I'm really doing it this time - I'm ordering that apron I've been wanting from Etsy seller Boojiboo. The only problem is that I can't decide which of their cute options I like best. So I'm hoping you can help. I've got 4 favorites.

Number 1:
The cute cupcake design comes in pale pink, yellow, or blue. I like the yellow and pink best.

Number 2:

The damask comes with black, pink, or red trim

Number 3:

It's not something I'd normally pick, but there's something attractive and appealing about this pattern I can't put my finger on.

Number 4:

Skulls - because I'm hard like that.

So, which one should I get? You can also check out Boojiboo's shop here

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Belated Meal Plan Monday

I'll forgive my cake class for making me a day late on this one. Honestly, yesterday at work was also so busy, I couldn't even begin to think about dinner. Here's what we're having this week:

Monday: Dan made whole wheat pasta with veggies - this is seriously one of his favorites

Tuesday: Meat loaf. Yummmmm!

Wednesday: Lemon pepper chicken with green beans and red potatoes

Thursday: Stuffed Peppers - I'm planning one of Dan's specialties for a night he'll be cooking

Friday: Homemade pizza

In other news, our futon came in. Dan's putting it together as we speak, freeing me up to watch LOST. I have a group of coworkers at my old job who are also big fans and we're finally having lunch tomorrow and discussing it.

2 days down, 3 to go...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cake Class 1: Gluten Free

I showed that cake who's boss in my first class today! It was an interesting experience. There are 5 other ladies in the class - one my age, and the rest are probably between 40 and 50. Some do other creative hobbies, a couple others don't even bake... yet.

Our instructor, Gloria, is from Guadalajara, Mexico and the first thing she did was kick the buttercream icing recipe in the book to the curb. She explained also that she teaches the Wilton concepts, but isn't paid on sales of product and has found some better ways to do things and she'll show us her own helpful tips along the way. She noted that we're adults and this is an open class and we're welcome to experiment and share, as well.

Gloria gave us her recipe, which she's perfected over the years. As she was reading off the ingredients and showing containers, we noticed that the shortening the recipe called for wasn't an easily estimated portion of a container. The woman next to me started getting uneasy. She wanted to know exactly how to measure everything perfectly. Gloria said, "I'm Latina, we don't do exact," but showed us how to eyeball it. She explained that her recipe is more robust than the book recipe, which apparently has to be spot-on to achieve perfect consistency. After we made her recipe in groups, she demonstrated how foolproof her recipe is and dumped in an extra 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 oz of cream cheese. The result: same consistency, same taste. Pretty amazing considering she about doubled those two ingredients.

So then the woman next to me wanted to know how we can make the recipe with no sugar or fat, because she cooks gluten free and organic and is allergic to things. She must have told us 800 times how she makes gluten free cakes that everyone loves. She wasn't even actually decorating because apparently she can't touch wheat. Uh... hmmm. This is a cake class, cakes are generally full of sugar and fat. The instructor is there to teach decorating, not to know how to sub recipes for dietary restrictions. I get that food allergies require people to figure out alternatives and get creative, but this didn't seem to the place.

So we made our frosting (minus Gluten Free) and learned to level our itty bitty 6" round cakes. Then we had to stack them and ice the outside. We learned techniques for how to get our buttercream perfectly smooth. I thought mine came out really well. Next we had to make "shells" to hide flaws where the sides of the cake meets the top and at the bottom where the cake sits on the plate. Yeah, I'm not so hot at shells. It doesn't help that I don't like the way they look - they're the same finishing touch that most grocery store cakes have and I'm just not a fan. Gluten Free wanted to take pictures as we were working because she blogs. Otherwise, she just sat there and stared me and my wee cake down.

After finishing our cakes and cleaning up, it was time to go over homework. Gluten Free noticed that Gloria was giving us materials and instructions for the lesson 2 cake, not lesson 3, and brought it up. Gloria explained that the she was changing the order because lesson 3 requires a round cake like we'd just made, whereas lesson 2 allows the choice between round and a shaped character pan, and that switching the next two lessons helps us build skills for the final lesson. No biggie, right? Makes sense? Sure. Not so much for Gluten Free. She is a rules follower, the kind of stickler that makes me look tame on my freakiest day.

So I packed up my sugary, fatty, non-organic, glutenful cake and came home. Dan thought it was pretty awesome. We shared it, but I wasn't a fan of the 8.5 pounds of buttercream I'd put on it, so he got quite a bit of my half, too.

I'm really excited for my class on Thursday. I have to recreate a much bigger version of what we did today on my own and I'll end up with something I can take to work to share. I'm so glad that Gloria is willing to give us freedom to experiment while learning techniques - I'm hoping to let out my creative side and decorate a pretty fantastic cake.

It's cake class day!!

I am uber-excited for my first Wilton cake class this evening! I'm also excited to get to do something just for me. Mrs. ESPN got me the class and the class kit as a bridal shower gift back in August and I finally have time to take it. I went to the store with Dan yesterday to pick up the rest of the supplies (like creepy clown heads) and treated myself to a pastry tip caddy for my (literally) 20 or so decorating tips. Right now all my cookie and cake decorating stuff lives in a plastic three-drawer rolling dresser thing that resides in what was the wedding closet. I'm debating a portable caddy for my stuff, but haven't decided yet what exactly I want. I decided, though, that my pastry tips definitely need a better home than a ziplock baggy. I think of them as an investment, since they're one of the only things that don't get used up in making cookies, so I need to take good care of them.

Our weekend was great - I got in a lot of naps. Dan had to work a job pretty much all day Saturday, so I got up with The Girls and then went back to sleep until noon. We spent our evening eating delicious leftovers and watching the Food Network. Yesterday, we took a family nap in the morning and then went to get cake supplies and had a late lunch at our favorite Mexican place. I took another nap with Paisley in the evening while Dan painted.

I also got my first graduation communication from my grad school. I'm getting very excited. Even though I won't walk the stage and graduate, the end is very near. Graduation at the school is May 8th and my last assignment is due May 3rd - that's a mere 9 weeks away!

Today is the beginning of close at work, and I'm just hoping it goes more smoothly than last month. There were some changes to our process in January that made me a little angsty come Friday, so cross your fingers this week is better. I have cake class tonight and Thursday, so I need to get runs in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Have a great week!